You might have met farmer Joel Salatin, “America’s most celebrated pioneer of chemical-free farming,” on the page through Michael Pollan. Now, you get a chance to meet him on the screen in the movie FRESH — or in person, when he appears at the University of Washington on Tuesday, April 20.

Organizers of a week full of events to celebrate the movie’s Seattle opening are kindly offering a pair of tickets to Salatin’s $25 Kane Hall appearances to our readers. The winner can choose between Tuesday’s 6 p.m. talk on “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being A Lunatic Farmer,” and the 8 p.m. talk titled “Can You Feed The World? Answering Elitism, Production, and Choice.”

(For a closer-up conversation, you could also attend a FRESH fundraiser at Emmer & Rye earlier in the day, with attendance limited to 25 people, but that one’s $125.)

Want to play? Leave a comment on this post, and be sure I have a way to contact you if you win. Time is short, so I’ll be randomly picking a winner from the comments at 9 p.m. PST Monday. If you have time to mull it over, I’m curious to know how you would answer the question posed in Salatin’s 8 p.m. talk. How do you answer charges of elitism about what you eat?

*Updated 4/19 to say that our random number generator picked Debra E. as our ticket winner! Debra, email me at rebekahdenn at so I can arrange to get your tickets to you! Thank you for playing, and we do have discount tickets available for other readers — the organizers will give you 20 percent off the list price by using the code “FRESHpromo” on Brown Paper Tickets.

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The Seattle Food & Wine Experience is coming up Feb. 28 at Seattle Center, and the organizers are giving away a pair of tickets to our readers.

What can you expect? 

For the wine part of the experience, the posted list of participants includes DeLille Cellars, Erath, McCrea, and 100+ more, with breweries to boot. Around 20 eateries are signed up, from Maximus/Minimus (out of hibernation for the day) and Frost Doughnuts to Artisanal and Campagne and — yes, seriously, check out what these folks have been doing – the Tulalip Casino’s restaurant, Tulalip Bay. Kathy Casey will give a signed cookbook to the first 300 guests.

Tickets are $49 apiece (with a portion going to the non-profit Beecher’s Flagship Foundation), which gets you unlimited samples of food and non-alcoholic beverages, and 50 tasting tickets for alcoholic drinks (at 1-3 tickets per taste). Interested in a chance to get in for free? Just leave a comment here telling me what you like (or, if you prefer, what you don’t like) to see at food festivals. We’ll pick the winner using a random number generator at 9 p.m. PST on Feb. 2.

Updated 2/2 to announce that our random number generator has picked comment #19, Dave, as our winner! Congratulations! 

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Jane and Michael Stern are coming to Benaroya Hall Tuesday as part of the Seattle Arts & Lectures series. I wrote a bit on Al Dente about whether the Sterns and their Roadfood writings are still relevant in the age of Yelp. (The answer: Heck yes.) 

The last time the Sterns came to Seattle, I had the happy task of trying to share some of Seattle’s best Roadfood bets with them. It was surprisingly tough, as I discussed here

In the three years since that tour, though, Seattle seems to have added another layer of eating out, a new willingness to expand beyond the fine-dining and into the just plain fine. This time, I’d send the Sterns any number of new places — Lunchbox Laboratory, Skillet, Marination Mobile, just for starters.

Where do you think they should eat? And if you want to dine with them, albeit in fancier digs, they’ll also be speaking at a fund-raising dinner to benefit Arts & Lectures at the Palace Ballroom Monday night.

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I’ve been impressed with the events food-lover Keren Brown organizes around town, from the Foodportunity networking nights to meetups with visiting authors. I’m glad to be part of her first “Foodportunity Expression” seminar, a food writing class that I’ll lead at Andaluca restaurant from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Jan. 16.  We’ll cover a range of topics, including effective writing and meaningful restaurant criticism, hands-on exercises and critiques, standing out in a crowded field, and finding inspiration.We’ll also enjoy lunch together, with pintxos cooked up by  Andaluca’s Wayne Johnson.

Here’s a link to the full details. Want to join us? Sign up here. (Cost: $99, including lunch). I may be the official speaker for the day, but I can already see that some wonderful writers will be part of the group, and I’m looking forward to a great day of conversations and questions and constructive criticism.

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Rice Pasta Couscous Jeff Koehler is technically a native son, but Barcelona’s got him now — and, lucky us, it’s been his home base for travels around the Mediterranean to write about food. Don’t miss him in a rare Seattle appearance at The Elliott Bay Book Company at 2 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 14) to discuss his latest book, Rice Pasta Couscous. It’s a cross-cultural look at those staple ingredients, with Koehler sharing recipes from a broad swath of kitchens, from Syria to Valencia to Sardinia. To me, the stories in the recipe headnotes, the short descriptions above the recipes, are as vivid as the foods. I can picture digging into the Alexandria-Syle Amber Rice With Fish in the fishermen’s quarter of that Egyptian city, or admiring the “white-washed Tunisian village that clings to the cliffs” where he ate Lamb Couscous With Pistachios, Almonds, Pine Nuts, and Golden Raisins. I don’t ever expect to make Neretva-Style Eel and Frog Brodet, but I like the recipe anyway for the reply Koehler got when he asked his Croatian host how many frogs should be on the ingredient list: “As many as you can catch.”

I interviewed Koehler here on Al Dente Blog about his cookbook, his travels, and how you really make perfect couscous.

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Jacket.inddThe Steamy Kitchen book tour is coming to Seattle this week, and you’ve got three chances to meet author Jaden Hair.

I asked Jaden last week how Seattle wound up as a tour stop for her book on “101 Asian Recipes Simple Enough For Tonight’s Dinner,” in these days of pinched book budgets. Are we (I hope) such a hotbed of fish sauce, lemongrass, and soba noodles that we were a natural audience?  She told me it’s because she had so much fun on her last trip here.

You can find Jaden from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday (Nov. 9) at the Admiral Metropolitan Market (2320 42nd Ave S.W.), then at the University Bookstore (4326 University Way N.E.) at 7 p.m. the same night for a book signing and food. On Tuesday, Nov. 10, she’s teaching a cooking class at 6 p.m. at Sur La Table in Kirkland (cost: $69, registration here).

My interview with Jaden is up here on Al Dente Blog, but here are some other highlights from our conversation:

One was that her speaking voice strikes the same fun, casual, best-friend tone as her blog. That’s hard to do. But it should work that way, Jaden said, because the blog is literally her voice. She writes using voice recognition software, talking through her posts instead of typing, for every part except the recipes. “I hate to write,” she said. 

She’s worked hard to get where she is today, moving in just two years from beginning blogger to author and photographer and TV personality. And now, she isn’t sure what to do next. “I’m at the point where I love what I do so much,” she said. The next big career step would be a regular TV show (she’s talked with the Food Network), one where “I would have a boss again,” she said. “I would have an editor, a producer, all those people who have influence on what I do. I don’t know if I’m quite ready for that yet. I want to sit back and relax and enjoy this. I can pick up my kids anytime from school, and they can hang out with me at home. If I want to cook pork chops on TV tomorrow, I can do it. I don’t have anyone telling me it has to be this style or this way.”

I also asked if her relationship with readers has changed as she’s grown from an unknown to a blog-star with a newspaper column and more Twitter followers than Ruth Reichl. Does that change her relationship with new readers, are people seeking her out now as a potentially powerful mentor rather than a blog buddy? 

She is getting a lot more requests from writers and chefs, asking how to promote their products, or saying something like “My publisher asked me to start a blog.” She tells them that blogging and Twitter have to be things they do every day. “It’s like, you don’t schedule time to brush your teeth, it’s something you do. You can’t say “I’m going to tweet for an hour tomorrow at two.” If you want to be successful at blogging, at promoting something, it’s got to be part of your life…it’s got to be all, or don’t bother.”

She can’t always answer questions one-on-one, but she was glad to do a recent phone-in forum with the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and said she’ d like to do more group talks like that. “I want to share the information (I have), because I got started because people were generous with their time with me.”

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The last time I was at a Foodportunity event, I hardly made it to the stage, because I kept running into people I wanted to meet and foods I wanted to taste. Keren Brown is throwing another one of her get-togethers at the Palace Ballroom on Nov. 2, where food-lovers both in and out of the industry meet up. This one will feature a panel discussion by top restaurateurs Thierry Rautureau, Ethan Stowell, and Kurt Dammeier, plenty of time to eat-and-greet your way around the room, and an optional “speed networking” session led by Julien Perry of KOMO. Cost: $30, including a glass of wine and nibbles from the panelists restaurants (Rover’s et al) as well as Tom Douglas Restaurants, Campagne, Joule,  La Spiga, and Lunchbox Laboratory.

Interested? Keren is graciously giving away a pair of tickets to the event to readers of this blog. To play, just answer this question in the comments: Which person involved in food in Seattle would you most like to meet? 

We’ll pick a winner using a random number generator at 6 p.m. PST on Monday, Oct. 26.

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Got a taste for lamb? We’ve got a pair of tickets to give away to the Oct. 25 American Lamb Jam, a gathering of 15 chefs and 15 wineries pairing “creative preparations of lusty lamb dishes” with award-winning wines. The roster includes Buty, DeLille Cellars, McCrea Cellars, ART, Flying Fish, Lola, and more. 

The restaurants didn’t simultaneously go nuts for lamb, of course. It’s part of the American Lamb Board’s Seattle blitz, a determined campaign to get people eating and talking about what’s been described as an underappreciated meat. I feel like I’ve appreciated it quite a bit around town, but it does strike me that while plenty of small Washington farms raise lamb, we don’t hear about them the way we know about, say, Billy’s tomatoes or Skagit River’s beef and pork.

So, want to win a pair of tickets to a night of lamb-centric wining and dining? Leave a comment here telling me what other foods grown or raised in Washington deserve more attention. We’ll close comments at midnight PST on Oct. 2, and use a random number generator to pick a winner.

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A new take on the cookbook, Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking With What You’ve Got, is one of the first offerings from a new Oregon-based small press.

I wrote a bit about it in today’s Christian Science Monitor. If you’re intrigued, you can meet author Tod Davies at a celebration of Exterminating Angel Press at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, at the University Bookstore, or at a book signing at 5 p.m. Thursday at Pilot Books. (Bring a list of what ingredients are in your fridge for inspiration, a la Thierry).

One of the things that caught my eye was the take Davies, a screenwriter, had on photographing food for the book. She didn’t approve. (More here.) It’s as far as you can get from the world of food blogs, which I’ve come to view as modern-day cookbooks. Cornichon thought the book itself “reads rather like a series of posts by a wordy blogger; it’s like listening to a particularly chatty guest at a boring dinner party.” It struck me as a transcribed cooking show, or a podcast, meant for a relaxed perusal over the weeks. It’s making me think about what the word “cookbook” means — and making me think I’ll make her “eggplant caviar” with the contents of my crisper.

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Farming is a different enterprise entirely when it’s done near a city. Photographer Roddy Scheer has spent the past year documenting that life, and his new exhibit, “Agriculture on the Urban Fringe: Farming and Conservation in the Snoqualmie Valley” will open Sept. 20 at Novelty Hill-Januik Winery in Woodinville.

The exhibit (including the image on the left) will be on display through Nov. 1, but the opening night’s celebration will include music, food and wine from local “salmon-safe” farms and vineyard, and guided tours by Scheer. Cost: $35, benefiting Stewardship Partners and its Salmon Safe certification. For tickets, call Nikki Dunbar at the winery, 425-481-5502, x104.

And if you can’t make it, you can still feast your eyes on a few more of Scheer’s pictures below. (more…)

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